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Altered frontostriatal white matter microstructure is associated with familial alcoholism and future binge drinking in adolescence

Neuropsychopharmacologyvolume 44pages10761083 (2019) | Download Citation


Adolescence is a time of significant neurobiological development, including changes in white matter microstructure. Familial alcoholism and adolescent binge-drinking have both been associated with altered white matter microstructure; however, the temporal nature of these effects, and their interaction, is unclear. Using diffusion-weighted imaging and voxel-wise multilevel modeling, the effects of familial alcoholism and future binge-drinking on white matter microstructural development were assessed in 45 adolescents, who went on to binge-drink (but were alcohol-naive at baseline), and 68 adolescents, who remained largely alcohol-naive, all with varying degrees of familial alcoholism. Both future binge-drinking and familial alcoholism were associated with altered frontostriatal white matter microstructure early in adolescence, prior to alcohol use. While several binge-drinking-related effects persisted throughout adolescence (in the posterior limb of the internal capsule, superior corona radiata, and cerebellar peduncles), the association between familial alcoholism and altered white matter microstructure dissipated across adolescence in all regions. There were no white matter regions identified where future binge-drinking or familial alcoholism were significantly associated with emergent or exacerbated alterations in white matter microstructure. Altogether, these findings suggest that alterations in frontostiatal white matter microstructure, some of which are associated with familial alcoholism, may be used to predict which adolescents are more likely to go on and engage in alcohol use. Meanwhile, a reduction in family history-related associations with altered white matter microstructure by late-adolescence is encouraging for future prevention work targeted at at-risk youth.

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We would like to acknowledge past and present members of the Developmental Brain Imaging Lab for their assistance in participant recruitment, scheduling, and data collection.

Funding and disclosure

This work was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01 AA017664 - B.J.N.). The authors declare no competing interests.

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  1. Department of Psychiatry, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA

    • Scott A. Jones
    •  & Bonnie J. Nagel
  2. Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA

    • Bonnie J. Nagel


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Correspondence to Bonnie J. Nagel.

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